How can the founders of social enterprises sustain their purpose throughout organisational growth? It’s a question that encompasses so many factors that it’s hard to pin down any answers. In this post, Alessandra Wulf explores some of the strategies, approaches and solutions for maintaining a sense of purpose on the job.
Within the field of positive psychology, purpose sits as a tool for many healthy functions, including resilience. In this case, stress is a competing demand, and can end up impacting organisational growth and purpose. So, how can we minimise stress so that it doesn’t tarnish our sense of purpose?
1. Use Hopeful Thinking
It appears that mum’s suggestions to “be hopeful” actually had some science backing them. Hope Theory is a hypothesis which relates to someone’s search for meaning, the thoughts and actions they use to enhance performance, and self-actualisation.
The theory explains that in order to achieve values-based goals, people need pathways of thinking and agency to reach the goal. The outcome of the goal then fuels positive or negative emotions which feed a person’s ability to create new pathways of thinking and agency. And so, the process continues.
So, when it comes down to your purpose and vision, stay hopeful. Believing is the first step to achieving.
2. Avoid Mind Traps
It is crucial that negative states of mind are actively minimised. However, that’s not to say that social entrepreneurs will never have negative mind frames, especially when ploughing a path for their organisations and themselves. Still, it’s important to recognise and minimise them promptly. Psychologists recommend starting with the act of mindfulness to increase self-awareness. The practice of mindfulness hinges on the idea that if we are aware, we can change.
For social entrepreneurs, this may include being reflective and reflexive on the path to purpose and organisational growth and not overplaying or staying too long in a space of ‘how bad’ a scenario is. It also means being patient and recognising when milestones are met and goals are accomplished.
3. Source Alliances
What is the fuel for your organisation? For the most part, effective marketing will play a role. To ensure that robust channels are activated and that your marketing efforts are reaching their intended audience, it’s a good idea to form effective alliances, networks, and partnerships so that collaborative arrangements spread your messages. To do this, articulate your purpose, then embed and evaluate the process before having , partners or stakeholders champion it.
4. Use Storytelling
The skill of narration is vital in sustaining purpose in self and business. This lays on a belief that purpose is embedded in human connection, and storytelling helps to strengthen it. Once you have a concrete idea of your why, share that with your team and audiences. As a tool, storytelling facilitates this through the process of forming, telling, reforming, and retelling stories about the characters, events, emotions and journeys which relate to the values of your organisation and the effects of your impact. .
5. Employ a Skillful Narrative
Ninety-five per cent of social entrepreneurs report that they harness their sense of purpose by having overcome a significant personal challenge, which helps them to energise others, be upfront and transparent, as well as remain strong, driven and committed. According to Bruner, narrative is particularly helpful in understanding and simplifying complexity and ambiguity, a useful tool in the messy world of social entrepreneurship.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
The threats that challenge our purpose are part and parcel of social entrepreneurship. That doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome them. Through the assistance of a professional counsellor, “narrative therapy”, also called ‘reauthoring’ or ‘re-storying,’ helps people identify their unique skills, beliefs and values to help them deal with the perceived problems in the world around them.
This therapy can be useful as it empowers the people to craft, or recraft the stories we tell ourselves. The technique enables people to identify their dominant story, and through awareness and exercise, make some decisions as to how this story helps or hinders their future, and how to carry this forward.
These 6 strategies are helpful to consider when you are under stress or are struggling to identify and maintain focus on your sense of purpose. The last strategy, asking for help, is probably the most effective strategy – even though it’s often the last resort.